Swedish Heavy Metallers HammerFall’s Live Show Gets Supersized with ‘Live! Against the World’
Vocalist Joacim Cans speaks to us about their new live album, recounts their India visit in 2010
At one point during their new live album/BluRay Live! Against the World, Swedish metal veterans HammerFall’s Joacim Cans asks how many were seeing the band for the first time. The MHP Arena in Ludwigsburg, Germany erupted with several hundred hands. Thinking back about it, Cans says over a call from Stockholm that those kind of moments “give hope for the future.”
He says about finding young fans come out to their shows, “I’m just so happy that in these weird musical times, they find heavy metal music, because it’s not the kind of genre that you stumble upon anymore. You kind of need to know where to search for it. It makes me so proud that we are standing there on stage after 23 years, and we are still a band that you can rely on.”
HammerFall certainly give it their all on Live! Against the World, which released on October 23rd via Napalm Records. Coming in at just under two hours, the 20-song setlist ran from classics like “Let the Hammer Fall” to “Hearts on Fire” as well as material off their 2019 album Dominion, all of which was delivered with the razzle and dazzle of modern concert production – pyrotechnics, visual design, stage cues and all. Cans notes that they were also celebrating the 20th anniversary of their album Renegade and in the energy and excitement of it all, he walked on stage and “kind of lost 50 percent of my energy” within the first three songs. The frontman then shifted his approach as bandleader to more like running a marathon than a 100-meter dash. “I kind of told myself, ‘Hey, calm down. You need to last another one hour and 35 minutes.’ And so then I just stepped back a little bit and I didn’t push it,” Cans says.
While HammerFall were playing a variety of venue sizes on their Dominion promo tour, they were well aware that Ludwigsburg was where they would have to deliver a choreographed performance (to the best of their abilities). Cans notes that everyone in the band and their crew were aiming to be “100 percent on the spot.” He adds, “All of a sudden, [on tour] you go from a small show to a big show and you have a lot of space on stage. You’re like, ‘Shit, now the stage and the stairs are five meters apart and you need to run. And you have pyro. You have to remember where you can’t stand during a particular song, or you’re going to get fried alive.” On this run of shows, HammerFall also invited Finnish rock/metal band Battle Beast’s vocalist Noora Louhimo to join on the charged-up, incendiary ballad “Second to None.” Cans says, “It gave something else to focus on, it was a great injection. That was kind of the highlight of the whole set to me.” According to the vocalist, no HammerFall song is complete until they perform it live and have the crowd sing along. Cans is very much the demanding performer throughout Live! Against the World, something he says he’s maintained since 1997. “Every show, you should perform like it’s your last show,” he says.
That probably leaves HammerFall not too down about the postponed tours around the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic. They got to make the live album “a full blown, badass product.” Cans adds, “I never wanted to do a livestream. In my opinion, it’s so boring […] In order to do something live, you need someone on stage and you also need someone to play for. You need an audience. At least for now, we’ve presented HammerFall with an audience.”
The last time India got the HammerFall experience was a decade ago, when the band headlined a night at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras’ annual cultural festival Saarang in 2010. Of course, Cans remembers “the fantastic food” and says he’s a part of a “curry club” in Stockholm with other musicians, who gather to eat only at Indian restaurants. But then he recalls vividly how, during their set, his on-stage carefree cursing drew the ire of one of the institute’s faculty members. “Someone came up to me and said, ‘You know, it’s a great show, no doubt about it. The headmaster of the university really likes it too. But, if you curse one more time, he’s gonna close the concert.’” After a moment of deliberation, Cans spoke into the mic and said, “Hey motherfuckers!” He says with a laugh, “I couldn’t really resist but nothing really happened that day.”
Watch HammerFall perform “Any Means Necessary” from ‘Live! Against the World’ below. Get the album here.